Meetings-2-Go Provides Innovative Tool For Planning Projects
Official planning efforts for a community’s future affect all residents, but only a limited number of them typically turn out for public meetings.
To boost public input across a range of demographics, Freese and Nichols’ Urban Planning and Design team now offers clients an innovative tool that can broaden the reach of engagement and empower residents while conserving tax dollars: Meetings-2-Go.
With Meetings-2-Go, an individual or community group can pick up a box containing materials explaining a public project: maps, project information, instructions for a meeting facilitator and exercises to gather feedback. When a box is returned to the City, planners can add that input to other data gathered through more traditional avenues, such as public meetings and online outreach.
More input without more expense
Meetings-2-Go gives residents more flexibility in when and where they can see a presentation about a planning project. A facilitator can present before a homeowners association, civic club or neighborhood gathering. City officials and staff, meanwhile, can spread the information without additional cost for planners to conduct smaller group meetings.
“The goal is two-fold: extend the reach in the community; and help our clients save a bit of money,” said Tiffany McLeod, who has used Meetings-2-Go for the City of Keller’s Future Land Use Plan 2018 Update, a current project.
Having community members conduct meetings among their neighbors also helps create resident buy-in into the planning process, she said.
As part of Keller’s Future Land Use Plan update, the Freese and Nichols team conducted five public input meetings during April (video is posted on the city’s website), collected feedback through an online survey and hosted booths at two large local festivals.
The availability of Meetings-2-Go boxes also was advertised during the public meetings and online.
The City distributed 20 boxes, and the team combined the returned feedback with input they received through other means to illuminate where the community wants to go with development.
Tiffany, the Project Manager, said the box “was one tool we used to understand if the questions we were asking would help get those core answers we needed. It’s another way to bring the meeting to the community instead of saying if you want us to hear your concerns, you have to come to us."
Bringing the meeting to the community
Shad Comeaux in Pearland introduced Meetings-2-Go as Project Manager for the City of Duncanville’s Comprehensive Plan in 2016. We also offered it as an option in the City of Rowlett Comprehensive Plan Update in 2017.
The Urban Planning & Design team continues to refine the tool. For instance, tracking can be improved to follow up with residents who take boxes to ensure that feedback forms are returned.
Daniel Harrison, a Dallas-based member of the Keller project team, said that an added value of Meetings-2-Go is that it can be used in a casual setting, a plus for people who might not feel comfortable attending a meeting at a large public building. “They can do it at their own pace, which can be very appealing to a group,” Daniel said.
“We’re definitely going to continue to offer it as a service,” he said.
For questions about Meetings-2-Go, contact Tiffany McLeod at Tiffany.McLeod@freese.com.